In the Philippines where most people are Catholics (about 80% of the population), people generally think that Protestants are more virtuous than Catholics, i.e. they all go to church regularly, pray regularly, don’t commit adultery or fornication, don’t swear, and don’t watch movies with too many sex scenes.
I think all of that is true. Most Filipino Catholics are sinful, and I don’t mean this in the way that we are all sinners or imperfect compared to God. What I mean here is most of my breed commit the most horrible sins every day without remorse. Perhaps about 70% of the Catholic population is sinful in that way.
The Protestants like to point this fact out as proof that Catholicism is the wrong or false religion because if it is the true one, then why are so many Catholics sinful?
There is a fallacy here which escapes even the most intelligent thinkers. A religion doesn’t become wrong or false because of the number of people who, while still considering themselves Catholic, reject its truths. To give an analogy: If a group of doctors insist that they have the right to kill their patients, and insist that they are still doctors, then this group is wrong both in saying that they have that right and in claiming that they remain doctors if by ‘doctor’ we mean someone who does not harm his patients.
The only way to logically claim that a religion is wrong or false is to look at its beliefs and theology, not by looking at how its believers live. Of course, the way believers live will affect the way other people view this religion, and Filipino Catholics must address this issue, but that is beside the point here.
What are we to do with these sinful Catholics? Should we turn our backs on them like many Protestant groups do? Should we say, ‘Oh, you are sinful, and you do not deserve to belong in our group?’
Catholicism teaches that God is a great gathering force. He does not scatter us or divide us. That who divides is actually the Devil.
Given this, Catholicism does not reject or turn its back on sinners, no matter how grave the sins are. A Catholic murderer, rapist, sexual molester, child abuser, etc. is still Catholic and still belongs to the Catholic family. What other Catholics have to do is to help this brother or sister to repent and live a better life. Most people won’t be able to help the above kinds of people except through prayer, but I only used the above examples to make a point. These people, even if they committed grave sins, are still our brothers and sisters, and we must help them as best as we can.
More commonly the type of sinners we encounter in our daily lives are those who commit less grave sins compared to the above like destroying other people’s reputations, having too much pride in themselves, adultery, etc. Most of us can easily help these sinners not just by praying for them but also by giving them guidance. How we can do this effectively will always depend on the circumstances.
So when Protestants ask why there are so many sinful Filipino Catholics, I will say because there are more Catholics than Protestants, and so the number of sinful Catholics is more obvious than the number of sinful Protestants.
Seriously though, the answer is because we live in a fallen world and we are all sinners. As a Catholic, I will say that the Catholic weapons against sin, e.g. the Sacraments, are the most effective, but only if they are correctly used.
Thus, the problem isn’t really the fact that there are too many sinful Catholics. That will always be a given until the end of time. The problem is how to help these people repent and start living better lives. At bottom, Catholics and Protestants have the same solution: Jesus. If only Catholics and Protestants will stop their bickering and realize what they have in common, perhaps we will be able to save more sinful people, whether they be Catholics, Protestants, or even non-Christians and non-theists.